Do you truly love your enemies?

Mere Comments links to a moving story of Christian love in action in a Lutheran pastor’s account of life in prison in Communist Romania. Within the pastor’s account is an amazing story of a dying priest’s love for his tormentor. Here’s the relevant passage (although the account is worth reading in its entirety):

At my right hand was a priest by the name of Iscu. He was abbot of a monastery. This man, perhaps in his forties, had been so tortured he was near to death. But his face was serene. He spoke about his hope of heaven, about his love of Christ, about his faith. He radiated joy.

On my left side was the Communist torturer who had tortured this priest almost to death. He had been arrested by his own comrades….

And so it happened that the Communist torturer who had tortured this priest nearly to death had been tortured nearly to death by his comrades. And he was dying near me. His soul was in agony.

During the night he would awaken me, saying, “Pastor, please pray for me. I can’t die, I have committed such terrible crimes.”

Then I saw a miracle. I saw the agonized priest calling two other prisoners. And leaning on their shoulders, slowly, slowly he walked past my bed, sat on the bedside of this murderer, and caressed his head — I will never forget this gesture. I watched a murdered man caressing his murderer! That is love — he found a caress for him.

[The priest told him], “If I who am a sinner can love you so much, imagine Christ, who is Love Incarnate, how much He loves you! And all the Christians whom you have tortured, know that they forgive you, they love you, and Christ loves you. He wishes you to be saved much more than you wish to be saved. You wonder if your sins can be forgiven. He wishes to forgive your sins more than you wish your sins to be forgiven. He desires for you to be with Him in heaven much more than you wish to be in heaven with Him. He is Love. You only need to turn to Him and repent.”

According to the account, the torturer accepted Christ, and died of his wounds later that night—as did the priest he had tortured. Mere Comments has some excellent commentary on the story, and on the Christian imperative to love our enemies.

“Love your enemies” is a familiar phrase to most Christians. Most Christians I know try, with varying degrees of success, to pray for their “enemies” or tormentors (although no Christian I know can match the above incident for its suffering and drama). But this story, and Mere Comments’ reflections, challenge us not just to pray for or abstractly “love” our enemies. We are to understand that Jesus loves even our fiercest, most antagonistic enemies with a depth we can’t comprehend. The same love that called us into a relationship with Christ wants the same for our bitterest enemies.

Do you pray for your enemies—not just that they’ll stop tormenting you, but that they’ll know the peace of Jesus Christ? When you look at them, do you see a person who has unique worth in God’s eyes? If they needed help—spiritual, emotional, or physical—would you be the first to offer aid, or would you sit back and let them reap the consequences of their actions?

5 Responses to “Do you truly love your enemies?”

  • Jessica says:

    Wow! That is so amazing, and that individual must have been prepared for years to have a heart so tender to God’s will that obedience was carried out. Is my own heart so tender, are my own feet so quick to obey? I wish, I try, I am working. Thank God that He continues to work with me for me.

  • russko maras says:

    im trying to love my enemies so prey to god to help me love my enemies,
    and try not to forget me in your prayers.Thank you

  • And it’s OK to hate your enemies as God hates…with righteous indignation. If you truly love your enemies, you’ll tell them the whole truth. Jesus said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. His Truth is unavoidably offensive, and that’s why they killed Him.

    He came to make clear the choice set before us: Life or death. Therefore choose life and tell your enemies they should too. Otherwise their consequences are eternal separation from God…which is the “second death”.

    Remember…some people WILL not be simply “loved” into the kingdom of God. If that were true everyone would end up there…because “God so loved the world”.

  • Jeanie says:

    The Gospel is GOOD News, not meant to be delivered with hate or righteous indignation. We can hate sin, but we are to love the lost (who are as we once were ourselves: Lost in sin.) We are to treat them with compassion as Christ did. See Matthew 9:35-38. He saw them and felt great compassion for them and that they were like sheep without a shepherd. And, Jesus Himself did exactly what you are telling believers not to do . . . He loved us into His Kingdom. He loved us with His life while we were still sinners and that is what we are called to do. Furthermore, Jesus DID rebuke and speak sharply to some people – but not the “sinners”. He saved His righteous indignation for the religious, prideful, self-righteous, hypocritical leaders and their “flock.” If we deliver the message of salvation with anything but the love of God, we are just a noisy clang, pointless, meaningless. I Cor 13. This adage says it best: “People don’t care how much you know (about the Bible or God) until they know how much you care.” So, Pro Life Musician, please ask The Great Shepherd to give you a heart like His to see the lost as He sees them. Find Grace and be empowered to Love. God bless you.

  • Jeanie says:

    Another thought, the Bible says “you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free.” That Truth spoken of here is not the Law because the letter of the law kills and the Spirit (of Truth) makes us free. Jesus came to set us free. He came that we might have life and life more abundantly. He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:17 It is the GOODNESS of God that draws men to repentence, not the dread of judgement and hell-fire. God’s Gospel is not “Turn or burn!” It is, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and you shall find rest for your souls. . . .” and “Ho! Everyone who is thirsty! Come to me and drink!” The Truth we are to know is the Holy Spirit, Christ in us the Hope of Glory, and the Word — which is also Christ. John 1. Know Him. Then, be free. Go out and tell it and sing it with a heart full of love!